Nature Marsilius Visiting ProfessorshipLecture: Superstar Scientists – How Hype and Hate are Changing Science Communication

Press Release No. 121/2022
28 November 2022

Nature Marsilius Visiting Professor Dr Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim talks about communicating science before and after Covid 19

During the Covid pandemic, scientists attracted unprecedented public attention – both positive and negative. Against this backdrop, in a lecture at Heidelberg University, Dr Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim is presenting her insights on the consequences of this field of tension. The multiple award-winning science journalist is the Nature Marsilius Visiting Professor at Ruperto Carola in the winter semester. Her lecture “Superstar scientists – how hype and hate are changing science communication” is taking place (in German) on 8 December 2022 as an on-campus event open to all members of the university in the Great Hall of the New University. It will be live streamed for the general public from 7.30 p.m. The streaming will be accessible via heiONLINE, which is the central portal of Ruperto Carola with lectures, panel discussions and events in digital formats on www.uni-heidelberg.de/de/heionline.

Portrait der Wissenschaftsjournalistin Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim im Hochformat

“Who is your favourite virologist? Around 2020 / 2021 that was a common question in small talk,” says Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim. “Before the Covid pandemic you looked in vain for scientific experts in TV chat shows on political issues, whereas suddenly no programme could manage without virologists, who turned into public figures.” For the Nature Marsilius Visiting Professor, this creates a dilemma: without public attention science communication is fruitless, yet public attention can also hinder an objective communication of scientific content. This is because both hype and hate lead, she says, to mixtures of facts and personal attitudes. In her presentation Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim will discuss this field of tension and explain why, in her eyes, there is “pre-Covid science communication” and “post-Covid science communication”.

The Nature Marsilius Visiting Professorship for Science Communication is a joint initiative of Holtzbrinck Berlin, the Klaus Tschira Foundation and Heidelberg University. It involves inviting well-known experts to the university to hold their own courses on what makes for high-quality reporting about scholarly research and scientific findings. At the same time, the visiting professors are expected to spark a broad-based discussion about new forms of exchange between academia and the public.

Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim studied chemistry at the University of Mainz and spent time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. She did doctoral research at RWTH Aachen University, Harvard University in Cambridge / Massachusetts and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research in Potsdam. Her studies of intelligent materials for biomedical applications earned her a doctorate from the University of Potsdam in 2017. Since then, Dr Nguyen-Kim has been active in many different ways as a science journalist and science communicator, for instance with her ZDFneo science show “MAITHINK X”, ZDF series “Terra X” and “maiLab” for funk, the content network of ARD and ZDF. The popular science author – her book, “Die kleinste gemeinsame Wirklichkeit”, examines societal controversies through the lens of science – was voted science journalist of the year in 2018 and has been awarded many prizes.

Note for newsrooms:
The lecture by Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim entitled “Superstar scientists – how hype and hate are changing science communication” is open to all members of the university and will take place (in German) on 8 December in the Great Hall of the New University, starting at 7.30 p.m. Representatives of the media are warmly invited to attend and report. Registration with presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de is required by 6 December.